Hong Kong yesterday passed a new immigration law that includes powers to stop people entering or leaving the territory.
The bill sailed through the Hong Kong Legislative Council.
Rights advocates, lawyers and some business figures have sounded the alarm over provisions within the bill, including one that allows the territory’s immigration officials to bar people from boarding planes to and from Hong Kong.
No court order is required and there is no recourse to appeal.
The Hong Kong Bar Association said that the bill’s wording gave “apparently unfettered power” to the immigration director.
Speaking after the bill was passed, labor rights advocates and lawyers said that the Legislative Council had ignored concerns about the law’s broad wording.
“When they have this power, absolute power, you don’t know who they will use it on,” barrister Chow Hang-tung (鄒幸彤), a member of the Hong Kong Alliance, told reporters after the bill was passed.
The Hong Kong government said that the bill was needed to address a backlog of non-refoulement claims and to screen illegal immigrants before they depart for the territory.
“It will only apply to flights heading to Hong Kong,” the Hong Kong Security Bureau said.
So-called “exit bans” are often used in mainland China against people who challenge authorities.
Separately, Chinese social groups, enterprises and public entities are to have increased responsibility to combat foreign espionage under new regulations issued on Monday by the Chinese Ministry of State Security.
According to state media, state security would work with other government departments to “adjust” the list of groups susceptible to foreign espionage and to develop measures to safeguard against it, including Chinese Communist Party and state organs, social groups, enterprises and public institutions.
Once organizations are designated as having anti-espionage responsibility, state security would provide “guidance, supervision and inspection” of their efforts, including personnel vetting, and strict training, monitoring and debriefing for staff trips overseas, reports said.
Such organizations must report suspicions and incidents to authorities.
The rules were unveiled amid increasing public campaigns to watch out for foreign spies, which state media have warned could be an “intimate lover” or “an online friend with the same interests.”
Additional reporting by the Guardian
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